By CAMERON KROETZ
Tom Richey is an accomplished teacher and YouTube personality who produces AP European History and AP U.S. History review videos on his YouTube channel. He teaches AP European History at Seneca High School in Seneca, South Carolina. Richey launched his website TomRichey.net in 2008 to help his students keep up with homework assignments, and in 2012 he began to post video lectures on his YouTube channel to help students that were absent stay up to date in class. Now his lectures help his over 60,000 subscribers review for their AP History exams. The following is an interview with Mr. Richey regarding the controversial confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Can you summarize your overall position on her confirmation?
I am not going to argue that Betsy was an ideal candidate for Secretary of Education – I would have been a much better choice because of my classroom teaching experience. But let’s not pretend that this was ever about Betsy. This is about school choice. Any candidate President Trump would have nominated would have been pilloried in some way or another – it was just easier to pillory Betsy because of her family’s wealth, her lack of teaching experience, and the “grizzlies” gaffe that really didn’t sound half as bad when heard in context (but admittedly, the memes were BRUTAL).
As a high school teacher can you explain your views on school choice?
Over a decade ago, I taught in an inner city school and got to see the underbelly of public education for myself. As a young man from a “privileged” background, I’d never seen anything like it. The experience destroyed any notions I had previously held that there was any equity in our public education system. The best performing schools are overwhelmingly white and affluent. That’s not fair. The idea that public education promotes equality is a myth. We need more options for kids who want a first rate education and we can’t just sit back and wait for government schools to provide it when they have failed miserably already. The sacred cow of public education needs to be examined in light of how our institutional structures are limiting opportunities for young Americans who don’t come from privileged backgrounds.
What do you see as misconceptions about school choice pertaining to Secretary DeVos?
I’m not going to go into too many specifics here, as I’m not completely familiar with all of the ins and outs of what the DeVos family has done in Michigan. I’ll admit that I’m uncomfortable with the idea of for profit schools (although if the alternative is for kids not to learn, I’m open to hearing more about them). When I hear that the charter schools in Michigan are operating with minimal regulation, I’m encouraged by that, because I’m sick and tired of teaching in a setting where I have four layers of bosses and red tape (building, district, state, federal). I hope that by being honest about my own views, I can encourage other teachers to consider the implications of educational freedom. We spend so much time complaining about our jobs and all of the constraints placed upon us. School choice offers us a way out. With more freedom will come more teaching, more learning, and more happiness to all parties involved. I’d love to start a charter school one day if the circumstances ever permitted me to do so.
Secretary DeVos was confirmed by the Senate despite there being a 50-50 tie in the vote. Vice President Mike Pence used his constitutional authority to break the tie in Secretary DeVos’ favor. TRUE Ethic would like to thank Mr. Richey for his time and for his thoughtful responses.